11 Interesting Animals in Smoky Mountains You may not Know

The Great Smoky Mountains are home to many interesting animals in smoky mountains, from black bears and deer to salamanders and songbirds.

But with over 100 species of mammals, 200 species of birds, and countless other creatures, it can be hard to know where to start exploring these interesting species.

These animals are all part of the park’s unique ecosystem, and they play an important role in the park’s ecology.

Visitors can often see these interesting animals in smoky mountains from a distance, but it is important to remember that they should be left undisturbed.

National Parks & Spots for Interesting animals in Smoky Mountains to Visit

Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley is a historic valley located in the forest trails of Great Smoky Mountains of the National Park.

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The valley is now a popular spot for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. This valley is home to a herd of elk, and you may also see black bears, deer, and coyotes here.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. It is located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

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The park is home to one of the most interesting animals in smoky mountains, including black bears, elk, and white-tailed deer. There are also many hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks in the park.

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is located at an elevation of 6,643 feet and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

There is a short hike to the top of Clingmans Dome, and the observation tower is open year-round.

Newfound Gap is a scenic overlook located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest paved road in the park and offers stunning views of the mountains. There is a visitor center at Newfound Gap, and it is a popular spot for hiking, picnic, and camping.

Let’s Explore 11 Interesting Animals in the Smoky Mountains

Home to an abundance of wildlife, and these 10 animals are just a few of the most interesting animals in smoky mountains.

Wild Turkey

 interesting animals in Vermont

Name: Wild Turkey

Scientific name: Meleagris gallopavo

Conservation status: Least Concern

Interesting fact: Males, known as toms, have elaborate courtship displays, which include puffing out their feathers, fanning their tails, and making a gobbling sound to attract females, called hens.

Found in: North America.

These impressive birds are one of the most interesting animals in smoky mountains known for their distinct appearance, featuring dark feathers with iridescent hues, a featherless head with prominent wattles, and a long, fan-shaped tail.

Wild turkeys inhabit various habitats, including forests, woodlands, and grasslands, and they are skilled runners and agile fliers. They feed on a diet consisting mainly of seeds, insects, fruits, and small reptiles.

Black Bears

Black bears, smoky mountains

Name: Black Bear

Scientific name: Ursus americanus

Conservation status: Least concern

Interesting fact: Black bears are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet includes berries, nuts, insects, fish, and even small mammals.

Found in: Black bears are one of the most interesting animals in smoky mountains, but they are most common in the higher elevations.

They are the most common large mammal in the Smoky Mountains. A Black Bear can weigh up to 600 pounds. They are excellent climbers, swimmers and can hibernate during the winter.

Black Bears are generally shy and avoid humans, but they can be dangerous if they feel threatened.

These bears can be seen in the early morning and late evening time in the spring and summer seasons.

Note: Approaching a black bear within 150 feet in illegal and a violation of federal law resulting in penalty and arrest as well. It is recommended to use binoculars to watch bears from a safe distance.

Elk

elk, smoky mountains

Name: Elk

Scientific name: Cervus canadensis

Conservation status: Least concern

Interesting fact: Elk are one of the most interesting animals in smoky mountains and largest land mammals. They can weigh up to 700 pounds and have antlers that can span five feet.

Found in: Elk can be found in the Cataloochee Valley and the Oconaluftee River Valley in the Smoky Mountains.

Elks are herbivores and eat grasses, leaves, and bark. They are social animals and live in herds. Known for their bugling sound, which they make during the mating season.

The national park service gave efforts to reintroduce the Smoky Mountains in 2001 after being extirpated from the area in the early 1900s. Moreover, for visitors feeding bears is illegal in the smoky mountains.

Eastern Cougars

Eastern Cougars, smoky mountains

Name: Eastern Cougar

Scientific name: Puma concolor couguar

Conservation status: Extinct

Interesting fact: Eastern cougars were once the largest wild cats in eastern North America. They could weigh up to 220 pounds and were known for their long tails and distinctive black spots.

Found in: Eastern cougars were found throughout the eastern United States, including the Smoky Mountains. However, they were declared extinct in 2011.

Cougars were solitary animals and preferred to live in dense forests. They were apex predators and preyed on deer, moose, and other large mammals. They are specially known for their ability to climb trees and swim.

Their extinction is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including habitat loss, hunting, and competition from other predators.

Coyotes

coyotes, smoky mountains

Name: Coyote

Scientific name: Canis latrans

Conservation status: Least concern

Interesting fact: Coyotes are known for their distinctive howl, which they use to communicate with each other.

Found in: Coyotes are one of the most interesting animals in smoky mountains, but they are found in the lower elevations.

Coyotes are medium-sized canines that can weigh up to 35 pounds. They are omnivores and eat a variety of animals, including rabbits, rodents, and deer.

Due to higher adaptability, they can live in a variety of habitats, including forests, deserts, and urban areas. They are considered a nuisance animal in some areas, but they play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling populations of other animals.

Red and gray fox are one of the most interesting animals in smoky mountains found in the national park and can be differentiated by their small size and timid nature.

Northern Copperhead

northern copperhead, smoky mountains

Name: Northern Copperhead

Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen

Conservation status: Least concern

Interesting fact: Northern Copperheads are venomous pit vipers that are found in the eastern United States.

Found in: Northern Copperheads can be found throughout the Smoky Mountains, but they are most common in the lower elevations.

They are known for their distinctive copper-colored scales and hourglass-shaped markings. Copperheads are medium-sized snakes, typically growing around 2-3 feet long. These venomous snakes are nocturnal and are most active at night.

Timber Rattlesnakes

rattlesnakes, smoky mountains

Name: Timber Rattlesnake

Scientific name: Crotalus horridus

Conservation status: Least Concern

Interesting fact: Timber Rattlesnakes are the only rattlesnake species in most of the populous Northeastern United States.

Found in: Timber Rattlesnakes can be found throughout the Smoky Mountains, but they are most common in higher elevations.

These rattlesnakes are large snakes, typically growing up to 3-5 feet long. Their bite is venomous but rarely fatal to humans.

Salamanders

salamanders, smoky mountains

Name: Salamanders

Scientific name: Urodela

Conservation status: Least Concern

Interesting fact: There are over 600 species of salamanders worldwide, and they come in many shapes, sizes, and colors.

Found in: Salamanders can be found throughout the Smoky Mountains, but they are most common in moist, and shady areas.

Salamanders are amphibians and ectotherms. They are preyed upon by a variety of animals, including birds, snakes, and fish. Some salamanders can regenerate lost limbs or tails.

Smoky mountain national park is considered the salamander capital of the world.

The North American River Otter

river otter, smoky mountains

Name: North American River Otter

Scientific name: Lontra canadensis

Conservation status: Least Concern

Interesting fact: North American River Otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes.

Found in: North American River Otters can be found throughout the Smoky Mountains, but they are most common in rivers, streams, and lakes.

North American River Otters are semi-aquatic mammals, meaning they spend time both in water and on land. They are carnivores, and their diet consists of fish, frogs, crayfish, and other small animals.

Synchronous Fireflies

Synchronous Fireflies, smoky mountains
  • Name: Synchronous Fireflies
  • Scientific name: Photinus carolinus
  • Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
  • Interesting fact: Synchronous fireflies are the only species of fireflies in the world that can synchronize their flashing patterns.

Synchronous fireflies are a rare and beautiful sight. Each male firefly flashes its light in a specific pattern. And over time, the other males in the area synchronize their flashes. This creates a mesmerizing display of light that can be seen for miles around.

The exact reason why synchronous fireflies synchronize their flashing is not fully understood. However, it is thought that they do this to attract mates.

When a female firefly sees a group of males flashing in unison, she knows that they are all of the same species and that they are ready to mate.

Chipmunks & Squirrels

  • Name: Chipmunks and Squirrels
  • Scientific name: Tamias striatus (chipmunk) and Sciurus carolinensis (gray squirrel)
  • Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
  • Interesting fact: Chipmunks and squirrels are both rodents, but they have different physical characteristics. Chipmunks have stripes on their backs, while gray squirrels have a gray coat with a white belly.
  • Diet: Chipmunks and squirrels eat various foods, including nuts, seeds, berries, insects, and even small animals.
  • Lifespan: Chipmunks typically live for 2-3 years, while gray squirrels can live for up to 10 years.

Chipmunks and squirrels are common sights in the Great Smoky Mountains. They are active during the day and can be seen foraging for food in the forest. Chipmunks are known for their cheek pouches, which they use to store food. Gray squirrels are excellent climbers and can often be seen scampering up trees.

The Official Animal of Smoky Mountains

The official animal of the Great Smoky Mountains is the American black bear.

It is a large, omnivorous mammal that is found in forests throughout North America. The black bear is the most common bear species in the United States, and it is estimated that there are over 1 million black bears in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

What animal is the Smoky Mountains known for?

The Smoky Mountains are known for the American black bear.

What is the largest animal in the Smoky Mountains?

The largest animal in the Smoky Mountains is the elk.

Are there mountain lions in the Smoky Mountains?

There are no mountain lions in the Smoky Mountains.

Olivia Kepner